04 Jean DeromeJean Derome – La chaleur de la pensee
Various Artists (including Ensemble SuperMusique)
ambiences magnetiques AM 276 CD (actuellecd.com/en/accueil)

I looked at some images from the great early surrealist artist Francisco Goya while listening to the new release of quasi-improvisatory pieces by Jean Derome. Somehow the one activity made the other more terrifying. It’s hard to express praise or admiration for this composer’s output, but the effectiveness of his creativity is undeniable. This is high-concept and/or/but high-quality artistic material. 

Derome provides a visual reference to Onze Super (petit) Totems: pictures of his own somewhat crude sculptures; protections, per the liner notes, against various evils. A through-composed sectional work, the totems are distinct sonic explorations, with one or two segues. The first one is full of mad birdsong alternating between chaotic twittering chirps and sustained chords of close treble voices, punctuated by deep huffing yells that spur the switching between those textures. 

The Tombeau de Marin Mersenne provides relief of a kind. Three movements (Tombeau, Rigaudon, Galope), materially determined by the arcane formulae of a16th century mathematician. At first blush they just seem a bit mechanical and dispassionate. Perhaps that’s the point. I’m not sure how flattered I’d be by this Tombeau if I were the ghost of Mersenne, but Derome has a fascination with the crossover of music and math. The inaptly titled Galope hobbles from slightly up-tempo to the near opposite, like a click track disturbed by the percussive interjections to continuous running hemi- or semi-quavers in the piano. 

The title track features improvisatory responses to a middle C doinked or plunked out at varying intervals, a sort of torture for any mind given to expectation. Allowing one’s thoughts to warm up around the steady pitch is a more receptive attitude. And stay away from Spanish painters.

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Author: Max Christie
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